Caught bluffing
Caught bluffing: Interview test turned the tables against me

Caught bluffing

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By Liam Horan, Career Coach & Managing Director, Sli Nua Careers

Liam Horan, BALLINROBE Tel: 094 95 42965

Q: In the interview, they asked me to create a table in Excel. I didn’t do very well due to a combination of nervousness and not being quite as accomplished at creating Excel tables as I had claimed on my CV. Should they have let me know beforehand about the test? (HL, email).

A: It’s a moot point, to be honest – the simple truth of the matter is that you were caught bluffing, and, as the modern phrase goes, that’s not a good look, writes Liam Horan, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

The company probably should have notified you of the test. It might well have scared you off, caused you to pull out of the process, and saved all involved a bit of time. But, either way, you weren’t getting that job and I think, on the whole, this was an enlightened piece of recruitment by the panel.

Caught bluffing

If you’re going to claim expertise in an area, be prepared to prove it. Too often in interviews, claims go unchallenged. People are hired on the basis of something they say in their CV only for the employer to discover later they weren’t quite the wizard on the book-keeping system they had claimed to be.

I’ve had candidates relish tests because they’ve nothing to fear. I know employers who have completely changed their opinion of a candidate because of what a test threw up.


Candidates bemoan the fact that interviews are ‘so artificial.’ The good candidate should welcome the opportunity to go beyond that artificiality and into a scenario that mirrors the actual role.

Generally, in my experience, employers notify people about tests as part of the recruitment process, and it’s good manners. But the real problem lay much closer to home in this instance.


Spoiled for choice

Q: I got the job – and now I don’t want it, because I’ve got another one. I didn’t tell them in the second interview that I was also in the running for another job, and that, if I got the second one, I would be taking it. I feel bad now having to tell them that I’m not available – when the HR manager rang yesterday, I hadn’t the heart to tell her I’m going elsewhere. What should I do? (KP, email).

A: Don’t feel bad. From my reading of your email, you had no alternative. You had to keep both balls in the air until one landed – and now that both have, you just have to make your excuses in as graceful a manner as possible.

Ring the HR manager back. You’re very sorry not to be able to take up the offer but that the other job is the one you preferred. You were unable to explain this to them during the recruitment process because both races were running at the same time.

Apologise for the inconvenience caused. Reiterate that if you could have avoided this outcome, you would have, but it unavoidable. Thank them for the opportunity and the offer. Wish them well.

Leave the bridge as unburned as you can (if she chooses to lose the head, that’s her call) and go off to focus on the job you’re taking.

You can read more blog from Liam HERE

Liam Horan is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers. We have offices nationwide, plus a full online service. Our services include CV preparation, interview training, mock interviews, personal statements, career planning / direction, LinkedIn profiles and application forms.